Eklund, McTavish among surprises on NHL opening night rosters

by 24USATVOct. 13, 2021, 1 a.m. 19
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Each season there are NHL prospects who surprise during training camp and play well enough to earn a roster spot to begin the regular season.

Season-opening rosters were announced Tuesday. A few of the names to make the cut may not have been on anyone's radar, but they did plenty to earn an opportunity.

A player on an entry-level contract can skate in nine games before teams must decide whether to send him to the American Hockey League or junior hockey and delay the start of their contract to the following season. Teams still can send a player down after his 10th game, but it would use up the first season of his contract regardless of how many more NHL games he played.

Today we look at 14 players (listed alphabetically) who surprised during training camp and earned a spot on their team's 23-man roster to begin the season:

Yegor Chinakhov, F, Columbus Blue Jackets: The 20-year-old, chosen with the No. 21 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, scored one goal and had 11 shots on goal in five preseason games. Chinakhov (6-foot, 178 pounds) was named the top rookie in the Kontinental Hockey League last season after he scored 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) and six power-play goals in 32 regular-season games with Avangard Omsk. He scored seven points (five goals, two assists) in 21 KHL playoff games to help Omsk win the Gagarin Cup as league champion.

Brandon Duhaime, F, Minnesota Wild: Selected in the fourth round (No. 106) of the 2016 NHL Draft, Duhaime (6-2, 200) exhibits speed and toughness that could work well in a bottom-six role. The 24-year-old has been on a line with Nico Sturm and Nick Bjugstad during training camp and scored two points (one goal, one assist) with 14 shots on goal in four preseason games. Duhaime, who can kill penalties and stand up for teammates, scored nine points (six goals, three assists) in 24 games with Iowa of the American Hockey League last season, his second in the AHL.

William Eklund, F, San Jose Sharks: Eklund (5-10, 176) proved reliable at both ends of the ice, which earned the No. 7 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, who turned 19 on Tuesday, an NHL roster spot. Eklund led the Sharks with six points (one goal, five assists) in five preseason games, and might open the season on the second line with Tomas Hertl and Rudolfs Balcers, and on one of the two power-play units. Last season he scored 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 40 games with Djurgarden of the Swedish Hockey League and was named SHL rookie of the year.

Seth Jarvis, F, Carolina Hurricanes: Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said he sees the 19-year-old among his top nine forwards. Jarvis (5-10, 175), a right-shot center, did not score a point in three preseason games but tied Derek Stepan for the Carolina lead with 12 shots on goal. Selected with the No. 13 pick in the 2020 draft, Jarvis scored 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in nine games with Chicago of the AHL and 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 24 games as an alternate captain with Portland of the Western Hockey League last season.

Peyton Krebs, F, Vegas Golden Knights: Coach Peter DeBoer has said he likes how the 20-year-old is versatile, capable of scaling a lineup, killing penalties and contributing on the power play, and he might begin the season on the third line with Nolan Patrick and Evgenii Dadonov. Krebs (5-11, 180) scored four points (one goal, three assists) in six preseason games. Last season he scored five points (one goal, four assists) in five games with Henderson of the AHL and had one assist in four NHL games.

Hendrix Lapierre, F, Washington Capitals: Lapierre (6-0, 180), the No. 22 pick in the 2020 draft, is a smart, creative player capable of driving offense and having success on face-offs. The 19-year-old, who was on a line with Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie during training camp, had five assists and six shots on goal in four preseason games.

Mason McTavish, F, Anaheim Ducks: McTavish (6-1, 207), the No. 3 pick in the 2021 draft, scored one goal and had six shots on goal in four preseason games. The 18-year-old could begin the season on a line with Isac Lundestrom and Jakob Silfverberg. McTavish scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 13 games last season with Olten in the Swiss League, the second-highest professional league in Switzerland.

Dawson Mercer, F, New Jersey Devils: The versatile 19-year-old, chosen with the No. 18 pick of the 2020 draft, might start the season as the third-line center after excelling in all areas during training camp. He scored three points (two goals, one assist) in three preseason games and was used on the power play and penalty kill. Mercer (6-0, 180), who can play wing or center, scored 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) in 23 regular-season games with Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in nine QMJHL playoff games last season.

Jake Neighbours, F, St. Louis Blues: Neighbours (6-0, 201) could fill a bottom-six role to start the season. The 19-year-old scored four points (one goal, three assists) with a plus-7 rating in five preseason games. The No. 26 pick in the 2020 draft scored 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) in 19 games with Edmonton of the WHL last season.

Sampo Ranta, F, Colorado Avalanche: A third-round pick (No. 78) in the 2018 NHL Draft, Ranta (6-2, 195) scored two points (one goal, one assist) in four preseason games and might start the season on a line with Alex Newhook and J.T. Compher. Ranta played three seasons at the University of Minnesota, signed a three-year, entry-level contract April 3, and scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in 14 games with Colorado of the AHL and played two games with the Avalanche during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Jack Rathbone, D, Vancouver Canucks: Chosen in the third round (No. 95) of the 2017 NHL Draft, Rathbone (5-10, 177) took advantage of an opportunity following the departures of defensemen Nate Schmidt (Winnipeg Jets) and Alexander Edler (Los Angeles Kings). The 22-year-old scored two points (one goal, one assist) and took 15 shots on goal in seven preseason games and may open the season on a pair with Kyle Burroughs. He scored three points (one goal, two assists) and averaged 15:30 in ice time in eight games with the Canucks last season, and scored nine points (two goals, seven assists) in eight games with Utica of the AHL.

Lucas Raymond, F, Detroit Red Wings: The 19-year-old (5-11, 182) led the Red Wings with six points (two goals, four assists) in six preseason games. Raymond, the No. 4 pick of the 2020 draft, has been skating on a line with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi during training camp. A right-shot left wing, he scored 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 34 games with Frolunda of the SHL last season.

Cole Sillinger, F, Columbus Blue Jackets: Sillinger (6-0, 197) is the first 18-year-old to make the Blue Jackets roster since Jarmo Kekalainen took over as general manager Feb. 13, 2013. Sillinger had two assists and 10 shots on goal in five preseason games and could start the season centering a line with Boone Jenner and Max Domi. The No. 12 pick of the 2021 draft, Sillinger led Sioux Falls of the United States Hockey League in goals (24), points (46), points per game (1.48) and shots on goal (113) in 31 games and was named USHL rookie of the year. His father, Mike Sillinger, played 1,049 NHL games.

Philip Tomasino, F, Nashville Predators: Versatile enough to play center or wing, the right-shot forward (6-0, 179) scored two goals and took eight shots on goal in four preseason games in a top-nine role. The No. 24 pick of the 2019 draft, he could open the season on a line with Nick Cousins and Cody Glass. Tomasino scored 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 29 games with Chicago of the AHL last season.

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